A billionaire gated community in my city just got inundated with floodwater from torrential rains. Oops!
Multiple cloudbursts over the Eastern side of my city poured misery on a gated community of billionaires.
My city, the Silicon Valley of India, Bengaluru, is still reeling from some of the after effects of the floods from the torrential rain that took place all through the week. Dozens of apartments and individual homes are still without power or water. Luckily, the weather is great, so we don’t have an additional heating or cooling problem to deal with. I myself had to seek refuge at a friend's place in another part of town for the past three days as my basement was inundated with floodwater. Many others who weren’t so lucky had to shell out big amounts to stay put with their families at hotels nearby as the floodwaters were being pumped out from their basements.
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My family and I just got back to our apartment yesterday to see the municipality workers still pumping floodwater out of the basement late into the night. The housekeeping staff were busy clearing the muck from the deluge that accumulated all around the basement and common areas.
Events like these usually lead to a cascading set of issues where the dominoes fall one after another:
- Flood water enters the apartment as it is blocked from flowing into another interconnected lake or SWD (Storm Water Drain).
- This natural source of freshwater which could have been harvested had it been allowed to seep into the ground (or into a lake) now sits in a basement where it interacts and mixes with the effluents from human civilization. All utilities such as our Sewage Treatment Plant, dustbins, diesel generator, manager's office, and car parking are located in the basement.
- On mixing with the above-mentioned effluents the water is now contaminated, turning it into an oily sludge that is viscous in nature no longer fit for drinking, bathing, or even for watering the plants.
- This water is now pumped out of the basement using tankers, which spew out an incredible amount of noxious diesel fumes while doing so.
- This water, which is neither treatable nor directly usable now gets poured right back into the earth from the tankers, contaminating it with effluents that would never have been present in it in the first place had humanity not interfered with the water flow cycle.
- Since this water couldn’t cool the earth by nourishing the trees in the city, nor could be harvested for drinking since it mixed with sewage in the process of flooding, the groundwater table is left dry, polluted, and depleted leading to a water scarcity issue all over again. I won’t be surprised if a groundwater shortage hits the city in a couple of months. This is truly a city of paradoxes.
We were pretty lucky only to see our basement and its utilities go underwater. Others weren’t so fortunate.
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People living in individual houses situated right beside lakes and storm water drains saw floodwaters enter right into their homes and consume everything in its path. Many people lost all their belongings to the deluge and now have a mammoth task ahead of them: banding together as a community and claiming compensation from the government for the losses incurred. People whose vehicles were marooned in the floods have the additional task of getting insurers to inspect the extent of damage borne by their vehicles, and the amount of insurance they can expect to receive.
However, unlike all other previous floods in my city, or even country perhaps, something totally out of the ordinary happened during this particular instance of monsoon flooding.
In a big deviation from the norm where it is usually the poor, downtrodden, and underprivileged who are made to carry the cross and bear the brunt of civilization's excesses, the homes of some of the most wealthy and influential people in the country got submerged in floods. For the first time ever, nature has managed to take a steaming hot dump on the very people responsible for the runaway climate change that’s wreaking havoc on the planet. For once, they got to savour a taste of what poor people have been going through for years together without any relief in sight.
Swanky Lexus, Porsches, elegant Bentleys, BMWs, and domineering Audi Q7s were all marooned in their parking lots by filthy floodwaters which were an equal mix of freshwater from lakes and sewage from overflowing drains nearby. Someone cheekily asked, in a Facebook comment, whether anyone in the gated community owned a Lamborghini. Posh recliners and sofa sets, home appliances and electronic gadgets, dining tables, chairs, and expensive showpieces could be seen floating in dirty brown water in a video that was being circulated online.
The billionaires themselves along with their families were seen seated atop rickety farm tractors being rescued from the rising tide of murky floodwaters.
On the other side of what was supposed to be a lake, the Outer Ring Road (ORR) with all it’s glittering tech parks, 5-star hotels, gated communities, schools, hospitals, flyovers and underpasses, life had come to a screeching halt. The highway that served as the main lifeline to all these tech parks had literally turned into a river overnight, and motorists had to wade through knee-deep floodwater to get to their workplaces. Visuals of prestigious tech parks with their smooth roads, landscaped walkways and their receptions with shiny steel and aluminium interiors inundated with knee-deep flood water spread like wildfire on the internet.
Officials of these tech parks pegged their collective losses at 225 crores (more than a million US dollars) from just a single day’s flooding.
In fact, flooding has become such a common occurrence in the city and recurring feature of the Silicon Valley area that many companies have altogether decided to procure their own boats and rescue equipment, in order to rescue their employees and get them to safe harbour in the event of such exigencies:
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Repairing Storm Water Drains (SWD’s) and removing encroachments on them that hinder the free flow of water is just one aspect of the recovery process. The administration has to take a step back and look at the bigger picture; climate change and extreme weather events, which are causing high intensity rainfall events to occur more frequently. We have to collectively acknowledge the fact that the amount of damage we’ve inflicted on the natural world is so high, that it cannot be fixed by clearing a few drains here and there, removing barriers to the free flow of water, or mandating that all houses and establishments install rainwater harvesting systems in their premises.
We’ll have to do much more than that if we want to remove all the heat that’s accumulated in the atmosphere above our oceans that’s making all these systems to form, move inland into vulnerable areas, and flood them. That can only be done by taking up massive afforestation efforts, re-wilding programs, shutting down water intensive industrial units, planting only climate resilient crops, returning huge chunks of land back to the wild where massive grandfather trees can flourish again, and returning all the marshes, swamps, and wetlands back to the lakes we stole them from.
Will the fact that the homes of some of the who’s who of industry and the most influential people of the city spur them to take action towards climate change? Or will they just write it off as a bad debt in their books like their Audi’s, Bentleys, and swanky Porsches?
Only time will tell.